Presumed Guilty

The wrongful conviction of Tim Masters is one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in Colorado history.

January 2012

Unsolved Murder

By 1994, Jim Broderick had a reputation as a meticulous investigator and collegial supervisor who helped reduce street crime and drunken driving. That same year, he was named supervisor of the Crimes Against Persons Unit at the Fort Collins Police Department. Two years earlier, on the trip to Philadelphia, Broderick was not able to control the Hettrick investigation. Now, it was under his command. One of the detectives on his squad, Troy Krenning, remembers the night during the summer of 1995 that Broderick announced he was ready to reopen the investigation. They had traveled to Grand Junction to make an arrest in another murder. While at a hotel bar following that arrest, beer and martinis flowing, Broderick announced they would go back to Fort Collins and start working on the remaining unsolved murder in town—the Hettrick homicide.

The case was eight years old, but many in the department felt that Broderick still thought Tim Masters was the killer. Krenning says he was one of the only members of the force who openly disagreed with his boss. A kid from Loveland who joined the department as a member of the cadet program when he was 18 years old, Krenning was a few years younger than Broderick. Married to a schoolteacher with two young kids, he thought the surveillance —in which he had participated in 1988—had been absurd. (“What did they expect? Tim to go down and start dancing on Peggy Hettrick’s grave?” Krenning said.) He says he didn’t think it was possible that a skinny 15-year-old could have pulled off such a macabre and carefully executed murder. Krenning says he suggested to Broderick that they take a fresh look at the case, but that Broderick believed the evidence pointed at Masters and that they could make the case stick if they put it all together.

Krenning now recalls feeling isolated and at odds with the way his supervisors were thinking. “It seemed they all thought Masters did it. At times, I would think I was missing something, that I was crazy!” he says. Krenning would eventually leave Fort Collins to become a police chief in a small town in Kansas. Wheeler-Holloway, who had been rotated out of investigations back on patrol as part of a departmental plan Broderick had helped to develop, was discouraged by her new detail. Generally frustrated with the department, she later quit and joined the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.